Saturday, 11 December 2010

A flute by any other name

The other day a young student told me she was going to write the word 'floboe' on her flute case. My puzzled expression elicited an explanation. "There aren't any oboes in the junior orchestra," she told me, "so some of the flutes play the oboe parts. So we call ourselves floboe players."

This put me in mind of a some-time pit band colleague (shows, not collieries) who is currently playing the clarinet parts of Beauty and the Beast on an alto flute. I wonder if she thinks of herself as a flarinettist?

I am reliably informed the 'flarinet' sounds beautiful and I have no reason to believe the floboe sounds any less so.


  1. I confess to being an occasional floboe player, and I don't think it has done me any harm.

    I have not come across the concept of a flarinet, and I wonder if they are in the same pitch. I could have a go, that would be interesting.

    My alto flute is not of the highest quality, and has a sound I can only describe as a bit wheezy in the upper registers. It works for jazz, but for classical could be ...well, different.

    Hmmmm I shall report if I do anything

  2. The alto flute has a range that sits very neatly inside a clarinet's. At the bottom end it stops a fourth above the low D that the reed instrument manages, while at the top end they peter out at about the same place. There's plenty of clarinet music that an alto flute could manage, the main obstacle being the transposition. Most clarinets are in Bb (and A, too, if you're an orchestral player) while the alto flute, as you know, is in G. But I think your alto's wheeziness might make it sound suitably reedy.

  3. The need to transpose might kill it for me, I was hoping I could just pick up the clarinet parts.